Saturday, August 23, 2003

New academy trains flight nurses

Program begins with four students

By M.R. Kropko
The Associated Press

HUNTING VALLEY, Ohio - Tom Shu said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were part of his motivation for trying to earn a master's degree in helicopter flight nursing.

"I had the experience of a friend killed in the Pentagon during that attack," said Shu, a registered nurse. "The fact is, unfortunately, everybody has to look at it as our lives have changed."

Shu, 31, a member of the Army National Guard and a nurse in the burn unit at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, has another reason for being one of the first students enrolled in the newly established National Flight Nurse Academy offered by Case Western Reserve University and MetroHealth.

"I like doing exciting things, and if I can combine my love of helping people with that, then it's the best job in the world for me," Shu said.

The flight nurse academy is starting small, with four students who will participate in the hospital's Metro Life Flight missions.

Students in the two-year program will study and research aspects of in-flight nursing, including challenges they may face responding to a terrorist attack.

"We are preparing a new, high level of flight nurses as acute-care nurse practitioners," said John Clochesy, a professor of nursing education at the school.

Nurses who come through the program will be better suited to make military-style triage decisions to categorize patients by order of medical need, Clochesy said. The nurses also will be qualified to make a diagnosis or issue a prescription, he said.

"Training for terrorism really means being prepared not to have the helicopter as the fastest ambulance in the state, but to have a way to move highly trained people and equipment to a scene, and then to eventually transport patients," Clochesy said.

Students, current flight nurses, helicopter pilots and firefighters attended the academy's first educational event, a summer camp in mid-August at the university's Squire Valleevue Farm in Hunting Valley, a suburban Cleveland village.

Another academy student, Lisa Lorenz, 41, a flight nurse for the past five years on MetroHealth's helicopters, said she saw the program as a chance to figure out how flight nurses can be more effective.

"I always wanted to be a flight nurse. That was a dream I had all my life," she said.

Enrollment is expected to increase to eight students next year at the academy, believed to be the first program to offer a nursing master's degree focused on being a flight nurse.

"I would agree that I don't think there is anyone else doing that," said Mary Anne Bosher, clinical operations director for Duke Life Flight at Duke University School of Nursing.

At Duke and other schools, students interested in flight nursing and those already working on helicopters can obtain a master's degree in critical care, Bosher said.

Participation in the academy's summer camp also is expected to grow next year, with the possibility of more nurses, public safety workers and members of the military seeking additional training.

The academy hopes to attract nursing students from across the nation, said May Wykle, dean and professor of Case Western's nursing school.

"They are getting a master's degree in critical care nursing, as well as the flight experience," Wykle said.

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